Matt Garcia was just fine with this particular 12-yard loss.
With Hancock College on its 47 and trying to run out the clock, Garcia, Hancock's sophomore quarterback, took the third-down snap then did just that. He ran around in the backfield, finally going down at his 35. By that time, Hancock didn't have to run another play because Mt. San Jacinto, out of timeouts, couldn't stop the clock.
Thus, the Bulldogs had a 14-9 win over the Eagles in the Western State Bowl at Righetti High School Saturday night.
"Best 12-yard loss in my life," a happy Garcia said afterward.
Hancock back DJ Whitmill was the Western State Bowl MVP. After gaining a total of three yards on two rushes in the first half, Whitmill, the Pacific League rushing leader, finished with 60 yards on 11 carries.
The bowl win was Hancock's second straight. The Bulldogs held off San Bernardino Valley College to win the American Championship Bowl 38-35 at Righetti last year.
Hancock, the No. 3 seed in the American Division this year, finished 9-2, and won its last seven games. The Hancock defense never gave up more than two touchdowns during that span. Mt. San acinto, the No. 4 seed, finished 8-3,
Desmond Newkirk scored what turned out to be the winning touchdown on a four-yard run at the 3:17 mark of the third quarter.
Brett Virgil and Alonzo Bell answered for the Eagles. Virgil hit Bell for a 15-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the third quarter from scrimmage. The point-after-kick missed.
After stopping the Bulldogs on downs in the fourth quarter, the Eagles drove from their 8 to the Hancock 36. Hancock defensive back EJ Barrera halted the drive there when he broke up Virgil's fourth-down pass.
"I seen where he wanted to throw it and I was able to get a hand on it," Barrera said afterward.
Mt. San Jacinto's Nicholas Sigilla kicked a 37-yard field goal on the first possession of the game for the only scoring of the first half.
Eddie Battle jump-started the Bulldogs when he took a short second-half kickoff at his 20 and returned it to the Eagles 43. Seven plays later, Garcia burned the over-pursuing Eagles and flipped a right-to-left pass to Jerome Afe. Afe, alone on the left side, gathered in the pass and ran in to complete a 31-yard scoring play.
Defensive back Seth Matthysse was Hancock's Player of the Game. Virgil was Mt. San Jacinto's Player of the Game.
"Our defense has been good at bending but not breaking," said Barrera, and the bend-don't-break thing served the Hancock defense well in its biggest game of the year.
Virgil, the Mountain League rushing rushing touchdowns leader with 12, was a handful all year for opposing defenses and, with his mobility, was a handful for the Bulldogs defense Saturday night.
Matthysse and Barrera, however, helped the Bulldogs defense keep Virgil from making enough big plays for the Eagles.
"He was the most challenging quarterback we've faced all year, no doubt," Barrera said.
"We wanted to make him throw the ball, contain him, and we were able to do that."
The Hancock defense did not give up more than two touchdowns in any of its last seven games.
Hancock punter and kickoff man Cade England had delivered for the Bulldogs all year, and he did so again Saturday night. He consistently put his kickoffs and punts deep enough to keep the Eagles from getting prime field position.
After mustering all of 45 yards rushing in the first half, Hancock, which averaged 305 yards on the ground going in, ran for 160 yards in the second half.
"We made some adjustments," said Garcia. "We went to a quicker tempo on the run, and it worked. We thought we could wear them down in the second half with the running game," the way the Bulldogs had worn down opposing defenses with the ground game in the second half most of the season.
Earlier in the year, Hancock finished a third straight 5-0 Pacific League campaign. The Bulldogs will go into their new league, whatever that is, having won their last 18 Pacific League games.
The Eagles finished 3-2, and in third place, in the Mountain League.